Fully Invested

Kevin Lewis

November 04, 2021

Political heterogeneity, subjective optimism, and stock market outcomes
Yosef Bonaparte, Rohan Christie-David & David Koslowsky
Applied Economics, forthcoming

We demonstrate that political heterogeneity, proxied by the spread in subjective optimism between Democratic and Republican investors, affects stock market returns and volatility. Our intuition, drawn from the psychology literature on intergroup conflict, leads us to infer that increased political heterogeneity causes investors to become entrenched, not just in their political beliefs, but also in their economic outlook. Consequently, they become resistant to contrary news, and this behaviour is linked to lower market volatility and higher market returns. These findings are further underpinned by evidence that shows idiosyncratic volatility, which reflects the level of stock responses to firm-specific information, to decrease as political heterogeneity increases. 

The Economics of Walking About and Predicting US Downturns
David Blanchflower & Alex Bryson
NBER Working Paper, October 2021

Economic shocks are notoriously difficult to predict but recent research suggests qualitative metrics about economic actors' expectations are predictive of downturns. We show consumer expectations indices from both the Conference Board and the University of Michigan predict economic downturns up to 18 months in advance in the United States, both at national and at state-level. All the recessions since the 1980s have been predicted by at least 10 and sometimes many more point drops in these expectations indices. A single monthly rise of at least 0.3 percentage points in the unemployment rate also predicts recession, as does two consecutive months of employment rate declines. The economic situation in 2021 is exceptional, however, since unprecedented direct government intervention in the labor market through furlough-type arrangements has enabled employment rates to recover quickly from the huge downturn in 2020. However, downward movements in consumer expectations in the last six months suggest the economy in the United States is entering recession now (Autumn 2021) even though employment and wage growth figures suggest otherwise. 

Private Communication between Managers and Financial Analysts: Evidence from Taxi Ride Patterns in New York City
Stacey Choy & Ole-Kristian Hope
University of Toronto Working Paper, October 2021

This study constructs a novel measure that aims to capture face-to-face private communications between firm managers and sell-side analysts by mapping detailed, large-volume taxi trip records from New York City to the GPS coordinates of companies and brokerages. Consistent with earnings releases prompting needs for private communications, we observe that daily taxi ride volumes between companies and brokerages increase significantly around earnings announcement dates (EAD) and reach their peak on EAD. After controlling for an extensive set of fixed effects (firm, analyst, and year) and other potential confounding factors, we find that increases in ride volumes around EAD are negatively associated with analysts' earnings forecast errors in periods after EAD and positively associated with the profitability of recommendations issued after EAD (but these effects dissipate over longer horizons). Taken together, our results suggest that analysts may obtain a private source of information orthogonal to their pre-existing information from these in-person meetings, which may help them better understand the implications of current earnings signals for future earnings. 

Is Stock Index Membership for Sale?
Kun Li, Xin (Kelly) Liu & Shang-Jin Wei
NBER Working Paper, October 2021

While major stock market indices are followed by large monetary investments, we document that membership decisions for the S&P 500 index have a nontrivial amount of discretion. We show that firms' purchases of S&P ratings appear to improve their chance of entering the index (but purchases of Moody's ratings do not). Furthermore, firms tend to purchase more S&P ratings when there are openings in the index membership. Such a pattern is also confirmed by an event study that explores a rule change on index membership in 2002. Finally, discretionary additions exhibit subsequent deterioration in financial performance relative to rule-based additions. 

Strength in Differences: How Racial Integration Shapes Household Financial Decision-Making
Melina Murren Vosse
University of Miami Working Paper, September 2021

Using proprietary geocoded data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, I examine whether local racial integration influences financial decision-making. I find that individuals residing in racially integrated communities are more likely to invest in public equity markets after accounting for individual and county-level differences. Exploiting within-individual variation from relocation as well as using Great Migration population shocks as an instrument, I demonstrate that integration has a causal effect on participation. Evidence suggests that racial integration improves local information quality, lowering informational barriers to participation. Moreover, this informational advantage enables integrated investors to achieve superior risk-adjusted performance on their local portfolios.

Falling Rates and Rising Superstars
Thomas Kroen et al.
NBER Working Paper, October 2021

Do low interest rates contribute to the rise in market concentration? Using data on firm financials and high frequency monetary policy shocks, we find that falling interest rates disproportionately benefit industry leaders, especially when the initial interest rate is already low. Falling rates raise the valuation of industry leaders relative to industry followers and this effect snowballs as the interest rate approaches zero. There are multiple channels through which falling rates disproportionately benefit industry leaders: (i) the cost of borrowing falls more for industry leaders, (ii) industry leaders are able to raise more debt, increase leverage, and buyback more shares, and (iii) capital investment and acquisitions increase more for industry leaders. All three of these effects also snowball as the interest rate approaches zero. The findings provide empirical support to the idea that extremely low interest rates and the rise of superstar firms are connected.

Hedge Fund Family Ties
Harold Spilker
Journal of Banking & Finance, forthcoming

Using a novel dataset, I show that hedge fund managers connected through shared employment histories hold and trade more of the same stocks than unconnected managers. A long-short portfolio of connected-unconnected overlapped trades generates 3.6% of annual alpha. Results are greater between fund-pairs with stronger social connections and longer relationships implying a socially reinforcing channel is responsible. Shock based tests confirm social channels lead to the main findings, supporting models of manager coordination. The findings identify common sources of risk and return for employment-linked hedge funds, except during severe drawdowns when common holdings are protected from fire sales. 

How effective is China's cryptocurrency trading ban?
Conghui Chen & Lanlan Liu
Finance Research Letters, forthcoming

Cryptocurrency trading is subject to strict government-imposed restrictions in China since September 2017, when trading platforms were shut down. Using a VAR-GARCH-BEKK model, we investigate the effectiveness of this trading ban by examining its consequences on the relationship between Chinese investors' attention and Bitcoin. Our results demonstrate that Chinese investors played a dominant role in the Bitcoin price formation before the ban, and that their influence has not significantly decreased after the shutdown of Chinese trading platforms. Aiming to explain our findings, we provide strong evidence that the crackdown on Bitcoin trading has not been effective as Chinese investors continue to purchase Bitcoin using the stablecoin Tether instead of Chinese yuan. 

Personal Financial Distress, Limited Attention, and Sell-Side Analysts
Hadiye Aslan
Journal of Accounting Research, forthcoming

By linking sell-side equity analysts to their deed records and LinkedIn profiles, I show that analysts with higher exposure to negative wealth shocks issue more pessimistic and less accurate forecasts. The effects are stronger when analysts have higher leverage in their homes and face career concerns. I also find that stocks recommended by exposed analysts underperform those of non-exposed counterparts, by an amount that is significant and economically large in magnitude. The results remain robust to unobserved skill differences, the potential endogeneity of housing prices, the self-selection of analysts into neighborhoods with certain traits, and placebo tests where housing wealth shocks are randomized across analysts. Collectively, this study provides new evidence on if and how personal wealth shocks impact analysts' work productivity and forecast behavior. 

Is flight-to-safety in the art market real? Evidence from the 1929 financial crash
Amir Rezaee & Isabelle Sequeira
Applied Economics Letters, November 2021, Pages 1671-1676

We study the impact of the 1929 stock market crash on the Paris art market by creating a high-frequency index of artwork sales to measure the arrival of new investors seeking safe-havens. The results show that following the financial crash, the previously volatile art market becomes suddenly stable, suggesting a flight-to-safety from financial markets to the art market. 

How Much Does Size Erode Mutual Fund Performance? A Regression Discontinuity Approach
Jonathan Reuter & Eric Zitzewitz
Review of Finance, September 2021, Pages 1395-1432

The level of diseconomies of scale in asset management has important implications for tests of manager skill and the expected level of performance persistence. To identify the causal impact of fund size on future returns, we exploit the fact that small differences in returns can cause discrete changes in Morningstar ratings that, in turn, generate discrete differences in fund size. Using our regression discontinuity approach, we find that ratings significantly increase fund size, but that fund size has a negligible effect on fund returns. Within Berk and Green's (2004) model, the absence of meaningful fund-level diseconomies of scale implies that the lack of performance persistence arises from a lack of fund manager skill. Alternatively, the lack of performance persistence may arise from competitive pressures outside of their model.

Firms' Response to Macroeconomic Estimation Errors
Oliver Binz, William Mayew & Suresh Nallareddy
Journal of Accounting and Economics, forthcoming

Initial Gross Domestic Product (GDP) announcements are important economic signals that convey information on the state of the economy but contain substantial estimation error. We investigate how GDP estimation errors affect firms' real decisions and profitability. We find that GDP estimation errors are positively associated with one-quarter-ahead changes in firms' capital investments, production, inventory, and profitability. However, we observe long-run profitability reversals, which is consistent with initial over (under) production eventually being met with declines (increases) in future profitability. Furthermore, managerial responses to the estimation errors mimic the response to the true component of the GDP signal, suggesting that managers do not filter estimation errors and overreact to both GDP signal components. Our firm-level findings translate to the macroeconomic level, where we find that a long-run reversal follows a positive short-run aggregate investment response to GDP signal components. 

Converging Tides Lift All Boats: Consensus in Evaluation Criteria Boosts Investments in Firms in Nascent Technology Sectors
Xirong (Subrina) Shen, Huisi (Jessica) Li & Pamela Tolbert
Organization Science, forthcoming

Although previous studies show that the emergence of evaluation criteria for a new technology improves the life chances of well-performing firms, we theorize that consensus in such criteria among technology experts increases investments to all firms in the new sector. We provide a variety of supportive evidence for this claim. First, in an experiment with 80 Chinese investors (Study 1), we provide evidence of a causal relation between evaluation consensus and investments. We follow this with a second experiment with 412 U.S. participants (Study 2), showing that evaluation criteria consensus increases participants' propensity to view a firm as technologically competent and to expect others to favor investing in the firm. Analyses of longitudinal archival data on investment in artificial intelligence technology firms in the United States (Study 3a) and China (Study 3b) support the generalizability of our findings. By exploring the social-cognitive processes that link evaluation criteria consensus to investors' decisions to invest in firms in nascent technology fields, this paper advances the scholarly understanding of the microfoundations of the institutionalization processes in new market sectors. 

Industry-Level versus Firm-Level Forecasts of Long-Term Earnings Growth
Adam Esplin
Finance Research Letters, forthcoming

This study assesses whether industry-level forecasts of long-term earnings growth (LTG) are more accurate than firm-level LTG forecasts commonly employed in prior work. I find that industry-level forecasts of LTG are more accurate than (i) firm-level forecasts, (ii) the median I/B/E/S consensus analyst LTG forecast, (iii) a zero growth forecast, and (iv) an LTG forecast combining industry and firm information. Industry-level forecasts are more accurate than firm-level forecasts for firms experiencing extreme growth and firms with high earnings variability, and are less accurate for firms in the Decline life-cycle stage.


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